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Kayaks paddling with canoes

I (a kayaker) have two paddling partners who are canoeists. Both want to go camping with me. I'm hesitant because (1) I'm afraid of what will happen to them if we run into "conditions"; and (2) my experience is that a solo canoe can't keep up with a kayak.

In other words, a kayak can do things tha canoes can't do, and do it more efficiently and safely. For example, what if we get stranded on an island because the canoes can't make it back to the launch on a windy day?

Canoes and kayaks have a different camping style, too.

Can kayaks and canoes be compatible on tour?



  • Canoes & kayaks..............
    -- Last Updated: Mar-16-13 11:51 PM EST --

    The issue is not about compatibility between boats. Nor is the issue about camping styles of canoes & kayaks.
    Boats are inanimate objects.

    The issue appears to be between you & your "partners". If they can't go where you want, or do what you want........they are potentially NOT your partners.

    I spent most of this past friday paddling whitewater with a small group of paddlers; 3 canoers, and 1 kayaker.
    The kayaker was the least skilled of the 5 paddlers. We didn't run off & leave the kayaker. At one rapid; we even waited while the lesser skilled kayaker walked around a rapid.
    We all started at point A & ended up at point B, together. Yes, we did have to "adapt" some, but we are all still paddling partners. We will almost certainly paddle together in the near future.


    P.S. To find out what a skilled canoe paddler can do in a canoe; research Don Starkell. Wonder if he'd have let you tag along with him?

  • Options
    Speed is not an issue
    Single blade canoe can keep up with a kayak and pass,
    see it every year in recreational races here in Michigan.

    Put skirts and float bags on a canoe - it can handle
    anything a kayak has thrown at it, wind, waves, etc.


    Skill of the paddler is another story........
  • It all depends
    -- Last Updated: Mar-17-13 12:10 AM EST --

    Bob already covered it. I'll only add some details to the mix. A decent paddler in a decent solo canoe can easily keep up with the average kayaker, but usually not with skilled sea kayakers. If they want to paddle together, they still can. Strong winds definitely slow solo canoe paddlers more than kayakers, and if it's big water, the canoes might best go elsewhere. Since you are talking about possibly getting windbound on islands, such trips are probably better done with kayaks and there's nothing wrong with saying so. It goes both ways you know. I know some really good sea kayakers who I'd really NOT want with me on some of the small rivers I often paddle. It's frustrating enough putting up with their total inability to get in and out alongside steep river banks without assistance, but throw in a bunch of downed trees, and it's no place for kayaks at all. Some types of paddling will eliminate one type of boat or the other from contention and others allow both. It all depends on the details. You need to figure out which is the case, so there is no general answer to your question. I'll also add that even if there WERE a difference in the "style of camping" between canoers and kayakers (there are lots of canoe paddlers who travel light, and a more consistent difference between them is the speed with which they pack/unpack), that's not even relevant, as far as I can tell.

  • Speaking as one who kayaks and canoes
    and is a retired psychologist, I'd say you don't want to paddle camp with your friends.

    I don't know how good you are in a kayak, but if the water around that hypothetical island is too tough for most canoeists, it's going to be too tough for many kayakers.

    If you wanted to go camping with those guys, it would be easy enough to design a trip route and plan that would leave everyone happy.
  • Big group of mixed style boats
    Last January I was with a group of 30 people that paddled down 40 miles of the lower Colorado River above Yuma, AZ. The boats in the group consisted of a pretty mixed lot of sea kayaks, recreational kayaks, touring kayaks, canoes, and a Hobie Catamaran. We had zero issues with a mixed group like that. Everyone there were experienced paddlers. We had very windy conditions and there were no serious problems with anyone or their boats.
    If your friends that canoe are experienced and skilled with their boats, then you should be fine. Its not the boat that limits your capabilities, its the paddler.
  • We Do It All the Time!
  • With your attitude...
    -- Last Updated: Mar-17-13 6:55 AM EST --

    I am guessing that you want to paddle with them, and then don't want you to.


  • As de ol' Mingo sayin' goes...
    -- Last Updated: Mar-17-13 9:13 AM EST --

    It ain't de tool... it's de fool!

    (Actooly, me Master cabinet-maker uncle always used ta say dat. Didn't reckon thaar waar Mingos in Germany! Whoda thinked?)


  • Do it all the time.
    There has never been a problem including during multiday camping trips with varying water conditions. Its all about the group dynamics and how the paddlers get along not the type of boat they are paddling. One item we talk about ahead of time if new people are joining us is that each person is responsible for transporting their own gear. This is to avoid people looking at all that space in a canoe and figuring they can bring folding chairs etcetera and have the canoeist transport them. Even that has never been an issue but it gets the "new" person to practice packing everything in their boat at home. With shared gear we try and split as evenly as possible so no one becomes the pack mule.
  • Options
    I think that your canoe pals need to take you on a trip that has a bunch of portages. I'm sure their nice guys and will wait for you to catch up.

    Since when was a camping trip a race?
  • canoe paddling with kayaks
    I went on a river trip last summer, 3 kayaks and 2 canoes. The one solo canoe was always in the lead, couldnt keep up with him. He is a very seasoned paddler and could maneuver his canoe, better than anyone that was paddling that day. Im a kayaker, but have seen what an experienced paddler can do with a canoe. A lot depends on the paddler, not the type of kayak or canoe they are in. Keep paddlin and have fun!!!!!!
  • Yes possible
    As above, if the canoeists are good there really should not be a problem as far as speed goes. And canoes have done the Maine Island trail - but they are pretty good canoeists and are fully set up with float bags etc.

    As far as conditions and rescues if needed, the answer is the same except that it also goes heavily to your own rescue skills. A kayaker can help rescue a canoe using very similar techniques to those used with another kayak, except for minor details like having to pass the canoe more fully over your own hull to dump out the water. And being a bit more secure in the balance in your own kayak to do so - I find that in my lower volume sea kayak I am sinking down a good bit about midway in that process. I would not recommend trying this without spending some time practicing rescues with a variety of canoes because there are a few minor diff's that you don't want to be figuring out the first time in significant wind and waves.

    If your experience with these folks is that they are not particularly skilled canoeists, I'd look to that alone as an issue because it could affect handling problems on the water.
  • Went on a 4 day, slow-moving river trip
    once, I was in my kayak along with two tandem/paddled solo canoes. A good friend of mine set it up and we knew each other pretty well. I like to move out, not really a racer, but not really casual either. He told me I could move out like I liked, just stop periodically so we could get together. So, I had the option. Sometimes I'd crank it up and sometimes I'd hang back and talk.
    It was amazing to me how much stuff they could bring though! Two full sized tents, a folding table, big cooler, 24" cast iron frying pan for breakfast, etc. These guys liked to eat really well. Had a great time, everyone could do what they wanted, pretty much. Really laid back, had a great time.
    Can canoes and kayaks travel together? I'd say yes, just be careful with your expectations.
  • Canoeists bring pies
    Literally - we had a mixed canoe/kayak group of fellow workers, now fellow retirees, that have done an annual trip for years. One of the food calculations is how many pies to bring - intact - because of having the canoes. Yum!
  • Options
    Pie in the hatch .......
    A kayaking friend brought a home baked pie nicely
    packaged and safely wrapped in her kayak hatch.
    I helped her at the take-out, she went on shore,
    I yanked the kayak cockpit up on my shoulder,
    only to be met with screams about inverted pie :-)
    Kayaks and pies don't mix, if others carry your kayak.
  • the inverse problem
    as a solo canoer when i plan an lead paddles and camping trips with my paddling friends i have the opposite problem. on day trips the kayakers have trouble with a difficult launch,having to get out at obsticals and shallow spots,and lunch break spot takouts. on overnights they have trouble with carrys and want a wilderness trip with none.they do also usually want to go faster. i have stopped trying to plan a compromise paddle. i plan it for the way i want and advertise it honestly so they can choose weather to come. you could do the same.
  • Curious
    Sounds like you are talking about open water sea kayaking? Not knowing much about canoes but I have seen skirts and floatation can be added to canoes. BUT if they dont have that added to there canoes I wouldnt think sea kayaking to islands would be a good idea in a canoe without skirts and flotation.Iam I wrong? River tripping sure but open water sea kayaking not so sure without added equipment which they may or may not have. But then again your kayak needs a skirt too.
  • Thank you
    That was a realistic answer.

    Maybe I should have phrased my question something like, "Given paddlers of equal, moderate ability on large lakes prone to high winds . . . "

    My worry is that a canoe could be overwhelmed more easily than a kayak. I would not have the skill to rescue a canoeist from my kayak. My attempt to do that would put us both at risk.

    As a kayaker it's hard to imagine an open craft 30" wide making much progress against a strong headwind that goes on for hours. That irritates and exhausts a kayaker, but it might just be impossible for a canoe. In those conditions what has saved me in the past was not my skill, but the kayak itself because:

    a) it requires less energy than a canoe to keep moving forward against a headwind
    b) it tracks better
    c) double blading keeps it on course better
    d) the low sitting position is more stable and aerodynamic
    e) a kayak is more forgiving of paddler error. You can take a large wave over the bow and recover. You can take water in the cockpit and recover with a pump.

  • I'm starting to remember
    I'm pretty sure I know you from a past life. I believe we met at Waterloo. Are you still mad about that?
  • Large lakes
    which often have ocean conditions.
  • sometimes its hard to find the right
    paddling partners for a given stretch of water. I don't know you, your friends, or much about ocean like conditions, but we should all listen to that little voice inside us. If you're having reservations then consider your options. You could find a stretch of water that is more compatible for the group or get a new group to complete what you want to do. You owe it to your paddling buddies to be honest. Tell them your concerns. You could purpose a compromise by: limiting open water time/crossings, renting better suited craft,or trying a shakedown trip. Its bad karma to go against your little voice.Only do what you're comfortable with when it comes to others safety. It is okay to lie about the takeout. Its always "just around the bend" or "a little further." Everybody expects that.
  • Mixed marriages ...

    .... may work sometimes.
  • Options
    my experience
    I paddle all the time with kayakers -- I in my fast solo canoe. I can usually go faster than most of them. There is one guy who is always faster than I am, but he is faster than all the other kayakers, too. Only once, going through Hell Gate against really strong winds, did kayakers have to turn back and make sure I was all right (I was fine, just "slightly delayed").

    On the other hand, there are things I won't do. I prefer edges to crossings; I choose my crossings for minimum risk and minimum distance, when sometimes the more skilled kayakers will intentionally choose the longer, rougher crossing. Having decks and bulkheads and rigging can make up for a lot of missing skill; it's hard to outfit a non-whitewater canoe for an ocean-style crossing.

    Overall, I would say that, for a wide range of moderate conditions, a solo canoeist can paddle with a kayaker, if both have experience in similar conditions and both are willing to put up with minor inconveniences related to the choice of craft. As conditions worsen, the canoeist's skills and judgement need to improve much faster than the kayaker's. And there comes a point where you just have to have a deck and bulkheads (in a sea canoe, possibly -- nothing magic about a kayak's seating position).

    Finally, I wouldn't go on a risky trip with people I hadn't paddled with before, regardless of what kind of boat they liked. If rescues were at all likely, I would want to practice rescues with them. You would find out more by paddling with these people, gradually ramping up the risk and difficulty, than you will by armchair reasoning. If they are sensible and the risk is too much for them, they will bow out and save you the difficult decision.

    Your comments are very, very helpful.

    Can you tell me what makes for a safe yet fast canoe? Width, length, and hull shape? I don't know anything about canoes.

    I'm not at all a fast kayaker and I take pains to avoid rough water. My route decisions are very similar to your own. My concern is the times when the conditions go beyond moderate. I think you answered this when you said, "As conditions worsen, the canoeist's skills and judgement need to improve much faster than the kayaker's. And there comes a point where you just have to have a deck and bulkheads."

    That's my sense also---that my intermediate kayaking skills and closed craft will get me through conditions that will overwhelm a canoe.

    I've decided that I will tour with these canoeists. Your comments help me foresee what could transpire. I'm going to suggest a lake that has quite a few islands for shelter and a quick return to the launch. Maybe car camping with day trips would be a good way to start.

    Thanks very much to everyone who contributed input on this. Very much appreciated.

  • Do your friends use float bags?
    (in their canoes) It really, really makes a diff in handling on-water issues.
  • Design does play a part
    in canoe seakindliness. A fat tandem of a tub with no secondary stability is not what you want in chop or waves.

    I run Superior in a RapidFire. It IS a canoe, but paddled from the more stable low seated position that is in a kayak. Its hull shape bobs over waves and the shouldered tumble home deflects side waves to break down and not in. I do use a spray skirt (full) but mostly to make the hull shape more wind resistant. RF is about 23.5 inches wide at the waterline and 15 feet long. Its a canoe. Note its dimensions are not unlike many sea kayaks. (Some kayaks are 17 feet lonng but a foot or more of the length is not usually in the water)

    On the Gulf of Mexico which I am going on tomorrow I am using a Curtis Nomad, a general all purpose solo canoe that is over 15 feet long. Again its no tub but I do have a standard canoe seat.

    The skill set is more important....way more important than the equipment. On open water the canoeist must be able to get stable and kneel. NO sitting on a high seat in those conditions. They have to have the savvy to keep the head in bounds of the rails. The seamanship really only comes with time.. knowing how weather will change without a forecast given to you, and knowing how to handle various wind directions. Canoes are more sensitive to wind, and the paddler(s) really MUST know how to ferry, and deal with stern quartering winds.

    On a river trip I really see no difference between canoe and kayak. I use a canoe since I sometimes portage and carry gear some half dozen times a day..and when there are kayaks along on those trips, the kayakers lose badly.

    Please do not feel free to dump excess gear that won't fit in your kayak in the canoe..Then you really can overload them. They are just as sensitive to loads as yaks are. Its not always true that canoeists carry more. On some of my trips of two weeks everything including food comes to 50 lbs. I have done myself in on river trips by helping yakkers by carrying their three Coleman two burner stoves up front where there was room and wildly screwing up the trim of the canoe and hence the performance.

    There are kayakers who have poor technique and hence go slower than faster better trained yakkers. Same for canoeists. Its true that the learning curve to get better with canoe can be daunting to some. Its up to your canoe companions how well they have trained. If they are arm paddlers, they probably will have trouble keeping up.

    Also think about who is capable of doing the rescues. My kayaking friends at AMC did not want me to paddle the Gulf of Maine with them as they said I could not keep up. A two hour paddle of 12 miles had me out in front the whole time. Now the real reason they confided in me was that they as kayakers were familiar with rescuing kayakers, but had no idea how to deal with an upset canoe. So we all worked on that technique. and found that boat over boat workes fine with the kayak underneath and then the heel hook for an assisted reentry once the canoe is empty with the sunny side up.

    I suspect that that too is your real concern, and its legit
  • Do your "friends" know
    You posted this here ????

  • Conditions
    The first rule of safety for any boating excursion hinges on whether you trust the skills and judgement of your fellow paddlers. If yes, go with them. If no, the decision is really easy. The only difficult call is whether you are unsure of their abilities. In that case, you should probably start with a smaller excursion to assess their judgement and skills.

    There is no reason that canoes and kayaks cannot intermingle. We've done this before and because the canoes can hold so much gear, they can be a joy to paddle with as long as the personalities don't clash.

    There are conditions that can overwhelm equipment and or paddler ability, regardless of the type of craft. Well outfitted canoes have been used in class 5 water and there is no reason the craft itself should be considered inferior to a kayak (though you won't find these old knees in a canoe) :).

  • Sorry I have no time for trolls
    What is your point?
  • No requirement to kneel in a canoe.
    Most can be equipped with foot braces and the seats lowered to achieve acceptable stability and control while seated.
  • I was wondering about that myself
    Thanks for the reminder. If they have them I'll feel a lot better.
  • Thanks!
    All very helpful information.

    About dumping the excess gear in the canoe, my concern is the opposite. I travel very light with backpacking equipment and like to spend my time enjoying the scenery, not fiddling with large mounds of gear and 4-man tents that don't fit on a backcountry site. But I can try to be flexible about that.

    Yes, rescue is my primary concern. I do not have the ability to rescue a canoeist in the water. But like any human being I would try to assist. That would put both of us in danger in bad conditions.

  • My answer was to Waterbird
    Read through his posts, and see how he treats his "friends" that paddle canoes.
    He is the novice. Not them!

    And no, I am not a troll. Waterbird knows that

  • You can rescue a canoist
    from a kayak - at least, once you have spent a little time working on it. This is an incorrect assumption from lack of working with mixed craft.

    If you have not learned or practiced this, you probably should not try tricky passages with canoes. Even if the swimmer knows how you ought to do it, you might still have to be the one executing.
  • Have had this experience
    It is a common experience for kayakers to be joined by relatively unskilled canoeists and find they are significantly slower. We have some canoeists who can smoke many of the kayakers in our local bunch, as well as some (like me) who have some time to go before their stroke is good enough not to be in the slowest group. Many highly skilled canoeists, in my experience, paddle with other canoeists of similar skill more often than kayaks, at least on flat water. WW is a different story.

    The question is not the experience but what impact it has on planning a trip. I have been on a number of short, evening type paddles where canoeists arrived with no float bags and no concept of how to handle a capsize except to swim to shore. This is not a plan in the middle of a larger lake. As to speed, there are desired routes where a minimum distance has to be made in a day to get to the next campsite, especially if it is a reservation situation.

    My personal take at this point in my life is to dawdle as needed rather than worry about speed, so if it were me speed would not be the issue. But if someone plans an overly ambitious trip and ends up trying to make land in the dark, or overestimates their ability to manage the situation if a wind comes up - these are real problems. I can do a rescue with a canoe, I can do some towing. But if it is handling unprepared paddlers in the canoe(s) in a very difficult situation one of me just doesn't go all that far. Things could get nasty.

    If someone has not had experience with better skilled canoeists, or practiced kayak/canoe rescues, it is understandable that they would have some concerns about how to manage a longer trip.
  • No, not I
    I'm well aware of my limitations related to age and anatomical functioning. In rough water I would be useless for rescuing another person whether canoe or kayak.
  • To be honest
    I have no idea who you are or what's on your mind, but that's okay. Carry on.
  • Planning
    After reading your post it struck me that a trip should probably be planned around the less skilled paddler and the least seaworthy craft. And then you paddle at the speed of the slowest person. I guess I can live with that. Or if I can't I'll find that out on the first trip. I'm willing to try.

    I have to say again that I am a low-key paddler, not a rough-water speed demon. I just want everyone to be safe.
  • Options
    safe yet fast canoe
    Two clarifications to my earlier post, and then an answer to Waterbird's question.

    I am fairly fast among solo canoeists. It is true that, with a canoe and a kayak of about the same length and about the same stability (given the difference in seat height), and assuming that both paddlers are giving the same effort, the kayak will usually be faster.

    Your decision to paddle with someone depends more on their skills and judgement than on their boat, but the boat does matter. I disagree with those who said that an open canoe can handle everything a kayak can handle. If steep, four-foot waves are dumping onto the bow of your boat, you need a deck, not a fabric cover (and a strong deck, too -- not every kayak is strongly built).

    As to what makes a safe yet fast canoe:

    It sounds like speed isn't a huge issue, so I recommend a boat between 28 and 31 inches wide for most people. A 32-inch-wide solo is probably for big guys. Under 27 inches is getting into race-boat territory. A wider boat (probably a tandem paddled solo) usually gives the wind a lot of surface area to push against.

    Length doesn't matter much. I would prefer not to go below 14 feet, except for a small and skilled paddler, but you would be surprised what a good 13-footer can handle.

    No opinion on depth. Probably any boat chosen for an ambitious trip by an experienced canoeist will have a good depth. Deeper means more windage but also more dryness.

    I wouldn't take a flat-bottomed boat on a high-risk trip, but as to the differences among non-flat bottoms (shallow V's, elliptical arches, and so on), no opinion.

    No educated opinion on the sit-vs-kneel question. I kneel in rough water, but I have a boat made for kneeling. I have seen sitting canoeists take some impressive waves.

    If you find out what model of boat your friends are paddling, you can post the model name here and get a gazillion opinions about it.

    Flotation is important. I mean good-quality float bags secured with a "cage" of cord, not just cord through the grommet holes (which like to rip out at the worst possible moment). A pump is very useful, because...

    Rescues can be done basically like a boat-over-boat rescue in a kayak. (Get perpendicular to one end of the capsized boat. Turn it upside down, then lift your end so water flows out and away from you. Flip it upright.) Because of the open top, the final flip scoops up some water that a decked boat doesn't get, so you end up with more water in the boat, unless you have a second person who can lift that end.

    A few canoeists can roll a canoe. I cannot. That's one of the reasons I avoid high-risk paddling.

    Don't assume that practice with rescues on flat water gets you ready to do rescues on bouncy water. Even holding on to the capsized boat can be a challenge.

    I don't know what you mean by "ocean conditions," since the ocean can hand you some really horrendous conditions, and of course it depends very much on the weather conditions on the day you paddle. Some conditions will overwhelm an open boat regardless of the paddler's skill, and some (worse) conditions will overwhelm any kayak. Basically, I recommend you practice and paddle together, and then you assume that moderate conditions will present only slightly more risk to a canoeist than to a kayaker; heavy weather significantly disadvantages the canoeist.

    You mentioned you are concerned about wind, which is valid. But some of us canoeists eat wind like it's donuts. Just depends on the paddler.

    Good luck with your decisions, and happy paddling!

  • speed
    in my experience most kayakers want to paddle faster than solo canoers no matter what the individual speed potential is. i don't know why,but it is almost always the case on mixed paddles. a different mindset maybe.
  • OK - I lacked a critical piece
    If you are limited from rescuing a kayak, I agree a canoe could be more challenging in a full on capsize recovery. I didn't have the bit that you couldn't assist in rescuing a kayaker.

    That said, if your friends have good float bags in their canoes, it doesn't take so much rescuing to start with. A little stabilizing from you and a lot of bailing from them.
  • Good replies that cover ...
    most everything, except I would add one thing.

    I'm surprised no one has mentioned the use of a kayak paddle in a canoe. As a canoeist, I avoid a kayak paddle (too wet), however when the wind and waves build, I'll use a kayak paddle to provide morecontrol, maintenance of forward momentum and additional bracing ability.
  • You seem to want a race-style start?
    When one does trips with both craft it's often much easier to start at different times...and maybe take different routes...y/n?
  • anything to say about the topic?
    Or are all your posts here just swipes at other forum members? If it helps, one tip is to ignore the OP's name and just address the topic. Cover one eye if it helps. This was an honest question that deserves a sincere response.

    There's a forum for flaming other forum members, it's called b&b. I know you're familiar with it.
  • Maximum canoe width?
    Can a kayak paddle be used with any canoe, or only with narrow canoes?

  • Unintentionally inflammatory question
    I'm curious about this, really. Not intending to incite a riot.

    I've noticed that kayakers and canoeists are very committed to their choice of craft and often can't be budged to even try the other one.

    For camping on large lakes, why would someone choose a SOLO canoe over a kayak? Easy of entry and exit has been mentioned, and I'm assuming also gear capacity.

    For me the easier paddling, better handling in wind and waves, and dry storage of a kayak outweigh those two advantages of a canoe. I thought about getting a canoe last year for ease of entry, but I was shocked at how hard a canoe is to paddle compared to a kayak and I dropped the idea after the first try.
  • I would think
    at some point you might find it difficult to find a long enough paddle and if you did it would be unwieldy.
  • I've paddled kayaks
    I even own one, but I'm trying to sell it because I find it difficult to sit in akayak for long periods. Having my hips/butt higher than my feet is much more comfortable.
  • There's a lid for every pot
    One former frequent poster here was devoted to double-blading a canoe, and his paddles were either 8 or 9 feet long, I forget which. I wouldn't care for the extra effort needed to produce the same push from the blade when the blade is that much farther away from one's body (after all, the hand position is about the same for any double-blade paddle, so the longer it gets, the farther you end up on the opposite side of "mechanical advantage", in terms of input force versus output force), but this person said he liked the amount of steering correction he could get when applying power that far from center, so like everything else, you weigh the trade-offs make your choice. I started out double-blading a solo canoe because my rate of learning to be efficient with a single was too slow to suit me. Unlike the long-paddle lovers, I used a 230-cm paddle and a much shorter and rather vertical stroke (I haven't used a double in years though). There seems to be quite a range of variation as far as "what works" simply because "what works" is defined by the individual.
  • I own & paddle canoes & kayaks
    depending on my mood and the circumstances. I do happen to own more solo canoes than kayaks. I finally got a kayak that fits me the way I like.
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